REVIEW – New Album “the record” by boygenius

By Cassidy Byrnes

boygenius, the supergroup consisting of musicians Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, have recently released their first full length album, “the record.” The band announced their return with a 2023 Coachella lineup announcement and later, on January 18th, gave fans their first taste of the new album, that was released on March 31st, with three new singles released as an EP.

First joining forces back in 2018, Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus had previously released a self-titled EP which highlighted their individual writing styles as well as their own stylistic productions. Consisting of only 6 songs, that EP made it hard to see the group’s collective vision, but it is clear from the beginning of “the record” that this outing was going to be different than their first. Co-produced by the group and Catherine Marks, who has worked with The Killers and Wolf Alice, “the record” seems to have a slightly different approach than their first EP, with grander vocals and instrumentals, creating a new space for the group to explore.

Starting with “Without You Without Them,” the group gives a stunningly harmonic acapella performance, pleading for the closeness between friends that only comes from a completely honest confession. This theme of friendship, introduced in the opening track, is the backbone of the album with lyrics like, “I want you to hear my story and be a part of it,” and “Speak to me until your history’s no mystery to me.” And “If you rewrite your life, may I still play a part?” in “We’re In Love,” which is one of the heaviest hitters on the album. Along with the acapella and moving acoustic moments, the group did not shy away from heavy, moving instrumentals featured in tracks like “$20,” with Baker discussing the concept of time, Dacus advising taking a break, and Bridgers begging for twenty dollars. In “Satanist,” in which Bridgers asks, “You know what I should do?” and adds her now signature scream before the outro of the track.

In the ballad, “Emily I’m Sorry,” Bridgers sincerely apologizes without the shield of projection and instead takes the responsibility of her own actions, singing “Emily, I’m sorry I just make it up as I go along.” The track shares a tragically beautiful self-awareness that hasn’t been seen from Bridgers before. Which moves us into “True Blue,” Dacus is wholly herself, sharing her love through the descriptives of heat which she uses in much of her solo work, “You were born in July, ‘95/In a deadly heat/You say you’re a winter bitch/But summer’s in your blood/You can’t help but become the sun.” This chorus carries the same sentiment as “Without You Without Them,” where Dacus shares that “It feels good to be known so well/I can’t hide from you like I hide from myself/I remember who I am when I’m with you/Your love is tough, your love is tried and true blue.”

Two of the biggest standouts on the record have to be the previously mentioned “We’re In Love” and “Not Strong Enough,” which has each of the “boys” musing over failed relationships. Bridgers begins by sharing her anxiety that seems to surround her relationships, “Not strong enough to be your man/I tried, I can’t/Stop staring at the ceiling fan and/Spinning out about things that haven’t happened.” Baker is next, stating that she is strong enough but wants to keep expectations low, just in case she does eventually screw it up. The bridge, which repeats the sentiment, “Always an angel, never a god,” separates the two from Dacus’ final verse where she admits that maybe the failure is not her, “I think I’ve been having revelations/Coming to in the front seat, nearly empty/Skip the exit to our old street and go home/Go home alone.”

Dacus’ verse in “Cool About It,” the preceding track, gives the audience a little more insight to the bridge with her expressing her movement towards forgiveness. “I came prepared for absolution, if you’d only ask,” but the person does not seem to have guilt, “So I take offense when you say, ‘No regrets’.” This absolution line shows us that while Dacus may feel that she has the power to absolve the guilt, the person has none because she is only an angel, not a god.

In “Revolution 0,” Bridgers discusses how love between friends is often regarded as less important than romantic love, “If this isn’t love/Then what the fuck is it?/I guess just let me pretend,” and “If you’re not enough/Then I give up/And then nothing is.”

“Leonard Cohen” has Dacus recounting an event between the members in which Bridgers misses an exit due to a song she is sharing with Dacus and Baker, making them take the long way on their drive. Dacus ponders the previous themes of friendship in “Without You Without Them,” with Bridgers on backing vocals, “I might like you less now that you know me so well.”

Baker shines through in “Anti-Curse,” with her sharing her self-destructive tendencies and stubbornness with the analogy of her half drowning in the swells of the Pacific, “I’m out of my depth at a public beach/I never listened, I had to see for myself,” and “Salt in my lungs/Holding my breath/Making peace with my inevitable death.” Fans will recognize similarities in the theme with the groups EP track “Stay Down,” where Baker sings, “Aren’t I the one constantly repenting for a difficult mind?/Push me down into the water like a sinner, hold me under/And I’ll never come up again/I’ll just stay down.” While the imagery is similar it is clear that Baker no longer feels like a burden as she sings, “I’m swimming back/See, you don’t have to make it bad/Just ‘cause you know how.”

“Letter To An Old Poet” closes the record with lyrics again paralleling one of the group’s EP tracks, “Me & My Dog.” Instead of wanting to be emaciated like in “Me & My Dog,” Bridgers shares that she would rather be happy in the most gutwrenching, pleading voice. She goes on to close the track in another parallel, “I’ll go up to the top of our building/And remember my dog when I see the full moon/I can’t feel it yet/But I am waiting,” compared to the line in “Me & My Dog,” “I wish I was on a spaceship/Just me and my dog and an impossible view/I dream about it/And I wake up falling.”

With so many hidden Easter eggs and callbacks to the band’s previous and individual works, it’s clear that this album was just as much for the fans as it was for the group. Boygenius’ “the record” is a deeply sincere and tender ode to friendship that will continue to inspire deep connections with current fans and those just learning about the genius that comes from these boys.

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